COVID-19 is not only a medical, social, and economic problem but also a pastoral one. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need has received many statements of solidarity from project partners all over the world but also learned of growing hardships and the heroic efforts of priests and religious in the battle against Coronavirus. In response, the aid organization has initiated a special program to promote these efforts. Tobias Lehner spoke with Regina Lynch, project director at ACN, about current relief initiatives and the efforts of the Church during the COVID-19 crisis.
What are we currently hearing from our project partners regarding the greatest needs in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
From our project partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe we are not so much hearing about medical needs but rather about the effects of the restrictions on the daily life of the Church. In most countries where Aid to the Church in Need supports the local Church, governments have applied the same restrictions as in our donor countries. That means no public Masses, no public gatherings, schools are closed and more and more people have difficulty in earning a living. And these in countries where, for the most part, Christians are a minority – sometimes persecuted – and belong to the lower social strata. The Church itself is hardest hit by the fact that there are no public Masses or the possibility to carry out the normal pastoral and social programs in the parishes. In many of our partner countries, the collection at Sunday Mass ensures the survival of the parish. The money from the collection – or often instead it can be chickens, vegetables, rice, etc. – guarantees that the priest can eat, pay the sisters serving the parish, buy petrol for his motorcycle for visiting the sick or even have a small sum to help the poorest of the parishioners.